Garage a Trois

Power Patriot

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Likely to be termed by many as a super group, Garage a Trois certainly is seen by youth-oriented jazz listeners as their prime-time all-star combo of the 2000s. Saxophonist Skerik, keyboardist Marco Benevento, vibraphonist Mike Dillon, and drummer Stanton Moore (for this date minus founding member, guitarist Charlie Hunter), have on their side all the talent and credentials to rise high in the upper echelon of modern-day jam bands. For their third album, you hear danceable club funk, skronky sounds, noise, and hefty improvisation, as the group is able to create an exciting brand of nu-fusion. What sets them apart is that they don't sound at all retro or tied to the jazz-rock pioneers of the '70s, but instead have a future view of how amplified sounds can merge with deep blue beats. Though their individual credits as composers alternate between each number and member (sans Moore,) there's a consistent cohesion in the music. Benevento's rhythmic propulsion is more extant than his melodic contributions, but during "Rescue Spreaders," it sounds as if he's reconfigured "All the Things You Are" on some acid trip in a 5/4 hard rock beat, enhanced by Skerik's razor-sharp sax. "Fragile" is hardly that, actually pretty shatterproof in a raucous yet swaying funk that suggests lounge lizard stomp downs. Dillon wrote five of these tracks, and while his vibes are more resonant, endearing, or even cute as on the slowed "Dory's Day Out," they also get the party started, reflecting the fun of hip N.Y.C. on the more basic, neo-bop, unplugged/acoustic-oriented "Dugout," recalling Steps Ahead or the Brecker Brothers. The busiest piece is "Computer Crimes," not so much discernible melody-wise as it offers maddening polyrhythms from vibes and drums, urging protagonist Skerik in a poking, probing pose. A strained dynamic level is sustained on the otherwise lean and mean "Fat Redneck Gangster" with multiple wah-wah accents, "Germs" is out-and-out piercing in a tight and fast hard rock attitude as galactic sounds meet gothic black shadings, while the hard staccato accents of the title track over low-level electronics leads into an R&B setting not unlike something James Brown would have indulged in. Only marginally in your face, at least initially, Skerik's "Purgatory" is a late-night, elementary, and elegant piece to start, with whooshing, breathing electronics washing away doldrums before a tidal wave of tribalism body slams any inkling of conventional wisdom. This cross-pollination of snarl, rave-up, charged jazz is also identified by a unique contemporary sound these four players conjure collectively. It's a mostly dissonant, deviant, argumentative, distorted, hopelessly chromatic, and downright obstinate music, reflecting a downward life spiral in America suddenly reversed via rocket power, fueled by blatant enthusiasm. Strap in and hang on!

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